Welcome

Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Government Land Survey, Part I

Thirty states in the U.S. use the Government Survey System, also known as the Rectangular Survey System or the Public Lands Survey System, to describe land. They are mostly in the West, land purchased or ceded to us by other countries. By 1785, a land ordinance was passed to allow settlement of the public domain lands of the original thirteen colonies and to establish the mapping method. The country was ready for the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 when President Jefferson bought 800,000+ acres of unsurveyed land that would become all or part of 15 states and two Canadian provinces.

The western land is divided into six-mile by six-mile squares, called townships, and then further subdivided into 36 sections, one mile by one mile. So they are not just floating in space, a township is described in relation to meridians and base lines. Some definitions, charts and examples follow:
   

            Meridians – north-south lines used as reference in mapping public land.
            Prime or Principal Meridians – thirty six north/south lines designated to be major reference points. Every twenty four miles east and west of the prime meridians are ‘guide meridians’ use to correct for the curvature of the earth. 

            Base line – thirty six east- west latitude lines chosen as references in the Public Lands Survey system; every twenty four miles north and south of these lines are correction lines or parallels to account for the curvature of the earth.

            Township – a six-mile by six-mile square formed by the intersection of lines parallel to the meridian and base lines; not to be confused with political areas with the same name.

            Section – Each township is divided into 36 one-mile by one-mile areas of 640 acres each.

Let’s work on deciphering a legal description from a Montana deed:

The northeast quarter of the northwest quarter (NE ¼, NW 1/4), the northwest quarter of the northeast quarter (NW ¼, NE ¼) of Section eighteen (18), Township nineteen (19) north of range seven (7) west containing eighty (80) acres more or less, according to the United States Government Survey thereof.
              Lewis and Clark County, MT, October 24, 1919, Mettler to J.B. Long and Co.

Working backwards, we will find the township using the base line and meridian information given above. While this deed does not give the meridian name, all Montana land is measured from one baseline and meridian.

Township Designation:  

“Every six miles east and west of each principal meridian, parallel imaginary lines are drawn. The resulting 6-mile-wide columns are called ranges and are numbered east and west of the principal meridian. For example, the first range west is called Range 1 West and abbreviated R1W. The next range west in R2W and so forth. The fourth range east is R4E.
Every six miles north and south of a base line, township lines are drawn. They intersect with range lines and produce 6 by 6-mile imaginary squares called townships…(those) lying in the first row or tier north of the baseline all carry the designation Township 1 North, abbreviated T1N, and in the second tier south, T2S.”
                                                                                                                    Harwood, pp. 20-22

A township on a deed will be designated by two groups of numbers and letters. For example, T2N, R2E, which is read ‘township 2 north, range 2 east’, is a township two tiers north of a base line and three ranges east of a meridian. The meridian may be named in the deed.

On the chart below, the horizontal green line is a base line, and the vertical green line is a meridian.
The town dicussed in the last paragraph is highlighted on the chart below.


T3N
R3W
T3N
R2W
T3N
R1W
T3N
R1E
T3N
R2E
T3N
R3E
T2N
R3W
T2N
R2W
T2N
R1W
T2N
R1E
T2N
R2E
T2N
R3E
T1N
R3W
T1N
R2W
T1N
R1W
T1N
R1E
T1N
R2E
T1N
R3E
T1S
R3W
T1S
R2W
T1S
R1W
T1S
R1E
T1S
R2E
T1S
R3E
T2S
R3W
T2S
R2W
T2S
R1W
T2S
R1E
T2S
R2E
T2S
R3E
T3S
R3W
T3S
R2W
T3S
R1W
T3S
R1E
T3S
R2E
T3S
R3E


T3S, R3W is a township three south of a baseline and in the third range west of a prime meridian. On the chart above, it is in the lower left corner. (Not all of the townships are so close to the meridian and base line to be visible on my convenient little chart. T13N, R51W is thirteen towns north of the base line and fifty one ranges west of the meridian.

In the Montana deed above, the township information is not abbreviated and reads “Township nineteen (19) north of range seven (7) west.” It could be written T19N, R7W. In other words the township is nineteen tiers north of the baseline and seven ranges west.

We still have a ways to go to find the land in the Montana deed, but it is filed in Lewis and Clark County so the land is there. Helena, Montana’s state capital, is located in this county.

Sources: Harwood, Bruce. Real Estate Principles. Reston, VA: Reston Publishing Company, Inc. 1977
Lewis and Clark County Records, Helena, MT, Deed, 1919, Mettler to Long and Co.
Next Week: Numbering and Subdividing a Section.
                                                                                                        ©2012, Susan Lewis Well

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post a Comment